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More than 300,000 civilians killed in Syrian conflict – UN

Residents walk through the destruction of the once rebel-held Salaheddine neighbourhood in the eastern Aleppo, Syria (AP)
Residents walk through the destruction of the once rebel-held Salaheddine neighbourhood in the eastern Aleppo, Syria (AP)

The first 10 years of Syria’s conflict killed more than 300,000 civilians, the United Nations said – the highest official estimate to date of conflict-related civilian deaths in the country.

The conflict began with anti-government protests that broke out in March 2011 in different parts of Syria, demanding democratic reforms following Arab Spring protests in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya and Bahrain that removed some Arab leaders who had been in power for decades.

However, it quickly turned into a full-blown civil war that killed hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed large parts of the country.

Tuesday’s report published by the UN Human Rights Office followed what it said were rigorous assessment and statistical analysis of the available data on civilian casualties.

Syria Civilian Deaths
A video grab of a Syrian soldier firing into a large pit full of bodies in 2013, in the Tadamon area of Damascus, Syria (AP)

According to the report, 306,887 civilians are estimated to have been killed in Syria between March 1 2011 and March 31 2021 because of the conflict.

The figures released by the UN do not include soldiers and insurgents killed in the conflict; their numbers are believed to be in the tens of thousands.

The numbers also do not include people who were killed and buried by their families without notifying authorities.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said: “These are the people killed as a direct result of war operations.

Syria Airport damage
A damaged portion of the Damascus International Airport, which was hit by an Israeli airstrike on June 10 (Sana via AP)

“This does not include the many, many more civilians who died due to the loss of access to healthcare, to food, to clean water and other essential human rights.”

The report, mandated by the UN Human Rights Council, cited 143,350 civilian deaths individually documented by various sources with detailed information, including at least their full name, date and location of death.

Also, statistical estimation techniques were used to connect the dots where there were missing elements of information. Using these techniques, a further 163,537 civilian deaths were estimated to have occurred.

“The conflict-related casualty figures in this report are not simply a set of abstract numbers, but represent individual human beings,” Ms Bachelet said.

Fireball in Aleppo
A ball of fire rises following a Syrian government air strike that hit rebel positions in the eastern area of Aleppo last December (AP)

She added that the work of civil society organisations and the UN in monitoring and documenting conflict-related deaths is key in helping families and communities establish the truth, seek accountability and pursue effective remedies.

The estimate of 306,887 means that on average, every single day, for the past 10 years, 83 civilians suffered violent deaths due to the conflict, the report said.

It was based on eight sources of information – including the Damascus Centre for Human Rights Studies, the Centre for Statistics and Research-Syria, the Syrian Network for Human Rights, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Violations Documentation Centre.